Age of Wonders 4 Eldritch Realms is the strategy game's best DLC yet

AoW 4's Eldritch Realms DLC adds a small expansion's worth of new ways to play.

1

Another season is upon us, and that means another round of Age of Wonders 4 DLC. It’s Eldritch Realms this time, a pack that does pretty much what it says on the label – adding Eldritch abominations and some new realm challenges. I enjoyed Age of Wonders 4’s Primal Fury DLC for what it is and assumed Triumph would follow a similar pattern with Eldritch Realms – some new tomes, some mounts, nothing major. And I was wrong. Eldritch Realms is more like a miniature expansion, with new maps and challenges and some of the best tweaks to the base formula that Triumph has come up with yet.

The road from hell is paved with bad intentions

A sanctuary outpost in the abyss, a new feature in Age of Wonders 4's Eldritch Realms

Eldritch Realms slides out two big new additions – a fresh story realm and a demanding new challenge realm. The challenge realm is a strong addition, with some puzzling new scenarios to work through, but I spent most of my time in the story realm just because it’s so rich. The broad scenario makes some fundamental changes to how you conduct a campaign, and the first is that you start in hell. Well, an Eldritch version of hell, anyway.  It’s dark, it’s full of tentacles and things, and the air slowly kills you. Naturally, it’s not a place you want to spend much time in.

I haven’t paid much mind to any of the previous story realm’s scenarios since, like in most strategy games, they’re mainly theatrical context to help frame your actions a little. That’s mostly true for Eldritch Realms as well, but the framing is a bit stronger than usual. It starts with a bit of roleplay, as you decide a personality for your ruler – who can be a bug, a tentacled monster, or something vaguely passing as a human – and team up with some folks making a break for the overworld. You’re their new god, and you need each other to survive. 

A packed map on the surface in Age of Wonders 4's Eldritch Realms DLC

The roleplaying here is moderate and has little effect on how future battles unfold, but the general setup is still much stronger and coherent than we see in other story realms. The actual character sheet does quite a bit of lifting in the character building department anyway. Take the tentacled horror I started with, for example. It specialized in overwhelming opponents and teaming up with allies to deal additional critical damage, which is definitely the kind of monster god you’d want, and it went along nicely with the more aggressive dialogue options when they presented themselves.

Anyway, back to escaping monster hell. You have to find an escape point and stand on the tile to leave, before the miasma overwhelms your fledgling army. The abyss map is a little simplistic compared to some of the other starting area maps we’ve seen in Age of Wonders 4, though I understand it also kind of has to be. Full-sized maps with too many points of interest would just drag out a phase that’s never meant to last too long. Still, there’s enough to keep you busy stockpiling resources that you can use once you reach the surface, which is where the real game begins.

Monster magic

An Eldritch god-in-training in AoW 4's Eldritch Realms DLC

Prisoners of an Eldritch abomination naturally have no home to call their own, and the same is true for you once you break out. Unlike most of the other scenarios, you have no home city and no base to begin with, which automatically makes conquest one of the most important aspects of any run. Even if you want to pursue a magic victory, you have to play aggressively at first and establish a zone from which you can decide to either make peace and thrive or bring everyone else under your influence. Considering the complete lack of resources other than imperium at your disposal when you start, the challenge is much steeper, even on lower difficulties. There’s an odd quirk where you do actually get one city once your non-godly compatriots leave the abyss, and the odd thing is they instantly start there, while your hero is still clawing their way through the mountains and forests surrounding the exit point. Even with the freebie, it still takes an extra layer of strategy to pull everything together.

Speaking of strategy, Eldritch Realms gives its heroes some fantastic new tools to tinker with as well. Tomes have varied branches of upgrades and buffs that cater to your hero’s specific playstyle, and there’s a strong selection of new spells with wide-reaching effects. Yes, some of them are just tentacles that constrict your foes, though it’s more effective than just mere fan service. Others include big movement buffs to help cover long distances quickly and no shortage of skills that affect enemy morale, as your hideous armies frighten enemies into submission or make them flee outright. A particular favorite, though, was one that inflicts demoralization on entire cities and makes it easier to gain control over them.

Eldritch Realms adds an impressive number of new ways to think about Age of Wonders 4, and the hero units and realm challenges are among the strategy game’s best so far. Sure, it’s not another Empires and Ashes-level expansion, but it’s pretty darn close.


The publisher provided the copy of Age of Wonders 4: Eldritch Realms used for this review. Eldritch Realms is available now on PC via Steam.

Contributing Editor

Josh is a freelance writer and reporter who specializes in guides, reviews, and whatever else he can convince someone to commission. You may have seen him on NPR, IGN, Polygon, or VG 24/7 or on Twitter, shouting about Trails. When he isn’t working, you’ll likely find him outside with his Belgian Malinois and Australian Shepherd or curled up with an RPG of some description.

From The Chatty
Hello, Meet Lola
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news